Amazon debuted Fire TV and boom, Google is ready to launch its own set-top box. Called "Android TV," Google's next attempt at taking over the living room will do pretty much what every other company is doing. However, Android TV is no longer a crazy attempt to turn your TV into a bigger, more powerful smartphone. "Android TV is an entertainment interface, not a computing platform," writes Google. "It's all about finding and enjoying content with the least amount of friction." It will be "cinematic, fun, fluid, and fast."
What does that all mean? It means that Android TV will look and feel a lot more like the rest of the set top boxes on the market, including Apple TV, Amazon's Fire TV, and Roku. Google's new vision for Android TV is less ambitious and easier to understand. The company is calling for developers to build extremely simple TV apps for an extremely simple set-top-box interface. While Android still lives under the hood, the interface will consist of a set of scrolling "cards" that represent movies, shows, apps, and games sitting on a shelf. You use a remote control with a four-way directional pad to scroll left and right through different suggestions, or up and down through different categories of content, each with their own shelves. Much like on other set top boxes, each item will be like a miniature movie poster or book cover, and you'll pick the one you want. The controller will also have Enter, Home, and Back buttons to help get around, and there will be "optional" game controllers. Android TV will also support voice input and notifications — though Google is encouraging developers to only use notifications in very limited cases. In total, Android TV is remarkably similar to Amazon's just-released, Android-based Fire TV as the verge reports.
Every so often, some enterprising computer company will claim they’ve finally fixed the TV. They’ll talk about how they’ve turned a dumb terminal into a smart computing platform that extends your work and play to a gigantic screen. Then, we’ll watch as the idea flops because they fail to line up content deals or wind up delivering a confusing, haphazard experience. That was the story of Google TV, which became the laughing stock of the industry after Google chairman Eric Schmidt bet that it would ship on the majority of new televisions in 2012. (He was sorely wrong.)
But what these companies seem to be realizing as their content deals fail is that they don’t need to “fix” TV quite yet. The proper opening salvo may simply be to put desirable content in front of people who use television the same way as ever.
Enter Android TV.